By Alex Enumah
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday adjourned indefinitely the corruption trial of former Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, and others over abuse of court process by the prosecution.
Oyo-Ita and eight others are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraud and money laundering, among others, to the tune of N570 million.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However, the trial judge on Wednesday decided to suspend their trial indefinitely over what he described as a contemptuous act by the EFCC.
The anti-graft agency had gone to another court to obtain an ex-parte order for the freezing of the bank accounts of the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants in the same matter before him.
Justice Taiwo, who described the EFCC’s conduct as “forum shopping” aimed at getting a favourable court judgment, said the anti-corruption agency’s conduct was reprehensible and condemnable and must not be allowed in the interest of justice.
He accordingly ordered a stay of proceedings in the trial until the EFCC and its lawyer “do the needful” by withdrawing the application before the other court.
The judge however did not fix any date for resumption of the matter.
The EFCC had filed an ex-parte motion with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1202/2020 before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo for the freezing of the bank accounts of 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the alleged N570 million money laundering charge preferred against the ex-HoS and others, even when the matter is ongoing before Justice Taiwo.
Oyo-Ita is the first defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2020 before Taiwo.
While Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd and Asanaya Projects are second and third defendants, Garba Umar and his two companies — Slopes International Ltd and Gooddeal Investment Ltd — are fourth, fifth and sixth defendants respectively.
Ubong Okon Effiok and his two companies — U & U Global Services Ltd and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd — are seventh, eighth and ninth defendants respectively.
The defence lawyers had urged the court to discontinue the trial until the EFCC’s counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, withdraws the application before Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, describing the act as an abuse of court process.
Also Justice Taiwo, had on February 11, threatened to return the case file of Oyo-Ita’s trial to the Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, for reassignment.